Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Parents engage with their children's learning

We have been focussing on publishing student outcomes in online spaces to motivate and engage students in their learning, with a particular focus on literacy outcomes. Our research results have shown that this is highly effective, with students saying things like, "I like writing now because I know that people read it." It shouldn't really have needed a researcher to tell us that writing with only the teacher as an audience is not very motivating!

We have also discovered that working with students in this way is very motivating for teachers because they get feedback - albeit via the kids work - in a new and authentic way.

But we have had a real sense of validation as we have started to see our parents engage with our students through their online work. We publish the students work mostly through blogs, and we have made the settings very public. No passwords required to read, and no passwords required to comment. So we have been finding that our parents are being generous and as well as supporting their own child, they are leaving affirming comments on the work of children other than their own.

For anyone unfamiliar with our district, the majority of our families do not have computers or internet access at home and so we don't take their interaction online for granted. But anyone who overlooks the impact of Facebook on every age group of adults is out of touch with life in 2010. Our young mums at school may not have the gear at home, but because they use Facebook they get themselves connected at different times during the week - friend's places, internet cafe, library etc - and it is up to us to suggest ways they can interact with their own child online at the same time. We have been gathering email addresses from our parents and including them in the Settings (Email and Mobile tab) so they receive an email every time the class or student posts. We are also teaching those with Facebook how to add an RSS feed to their page so they can receive updates there.

Last week we held a Home School partnership meeting at night to teach our parents how to respond to their children's blog posts. We were taken by surprise when 93 parents turned up! This Flip video shows them listening to a preamble in the hall before they went off to classrooms to enjoy a 'hands on' blogging experience - leaving 160 kids with the principal for 'baby sitting'!


  1. Even though we are a decile 6 school we have a lot of difficulty getting our parents contributing to our student e-Portfolios. As we use KnowledgeNET the Facebook option isn't available to us but I really like the sound of your Home School partnership meeting - especially the part where the principal is babysitting! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mrs. Burt,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. That is great that the parents are becoming so involved in their child's work. Honestly, I have to agree with the student who stated that they love to write since they have an audience. I too have felt that way when I have to present or now that I'm blogging. I don't wont my work to be sloppy and have major grammar when others beside the teacher reads it. I do feel more motivated when others read my work. I think that's a great idea to have use facebook as a way the students and their parents can check their school work online.

    -Katherine (EDM 310 student)

  3. Hi Dorothy,
    Super example of community engagement and making the technology work for you and your families.

  4. Hi Dorothy,


    I am so impressed with what you are doing at PtEngland to engage the entire community in the teaching and learning process.I saw so many wonderful strategies for authentically connecting students to their learning that I wanted to implement them all. But when I got home I realized I don't know how. Conducting a book talk via video conferencing was awesome and seemed relatively easy to implement with two classrooms...not. I also want very much to implement the podcasting and blogging aspect into my classroom experience but it is not as easy as it looks. I am trying to include the blog as part of an existing website but I am having a hard time. Should I create it as a separate entity? What would you suggest?

    I am beginning to become frustrated, but I am not giving up. I've seen it in action so I know it is possible. Like most things, it's easy when you know how.

    Linda Forrest
    Queens, NY (USA)
    ISTE Group Visit February(2010)

  5. Hello! I commented on your previous post last week for my EDM 310 class, we are working on blogging right now and I was asked to comment on your posts as one of my assignments. This is awesome what you are doing with your students and parents. Getting the parents of your students involved in their work is such an uplifting and amazing thing! Children are always looking to other people for approval of things they do and for their own parents to praise them and gratify them for their accomplishments is so satisfying to these kids. I loved showing my parents my school work and how well I did when I was a child. Of course, we didn't have computers and internet back then so all of my stuff was on paper, but it is ultimately the same outcome. Children are so creative and imaginative and for them to be able to share their work with anybody and everybody is something that will help them grow in pride and intellect.

  6. Mrs. Burt,

    I am majoring in Secondary English Education, and I am taking a teaching comp. class this semester. The class helps us with different techniques with teaching writing. I think that posting the students' work on the blogs is an excellent way to get the students more motivated. I definitely will use this advice when I become a teacher. I also love the fact that the parents are so involved, and they have a desire to connect with the children. I think a parent's approval is an important aspect for all children to succeed. The things you are doing with your class and the opportunities you are creating make me extremely excited to become a teacher. Thanks for all your hard work.

  7. Belina (assuming you return to read here, as I am unsure how else to contact you), KnowledgeNET is currently implementing newsfeeds (and then RSS) in to their parent portal (the the open source alternative developed especially for schools using Moodle). This means that soon parents with children in your school could receive a notification of something new of interest, either to Facebook or any aggregator.

    Dorothy, I will be interested to see how this alters the way your work between Google and KnowledgeNET.


  8. @Belinda and Paul First, we DONT use Facebook! (we simply showed parents how to include a feed from their child's blog in their own FB page). We use Blogger with our students as the public nature of the blog platform places less barriers in the way of our parents interacting with their own children's work. And our parent cohort is more in tune with the 'it takes a village to raise a child' philosophy, so they are interacting positively and affirmingly with other people's children too via the Blogs. KnowledgeNet doesn't allow that whanau/village style of interaction.
    @Katherine I appreciate your comment because I too feel that way. In fact I am sure a lot of adults do which is why I am quite amazed by teachers (and teacher training institutions) who have not embraced this development in 21st Century learning. We need more young teachers coming through like you :)
    @Bliss A very good point you make about parent praise. This gives parents an authentic way to interact with their own childrens' learning. As a parent in the past decade I have been sent home clear file portfolios that we were expected to make comments on for our children. The 'exemplars' of work they contained, the goals they set, and the questions we were supposed to answer felt so contrived that you would break out in a cold sweat as you tried to fill them in!! Wanting to be supportive of your child and do the right thing, but the situation wasn't natural. However with blogging, you are just reading/viewing the latest piece from your child and it calls for a much more natural response.
    @Jamie Lynn I appreciate your kind words of encouragement. I love to hear about trainee teachers who are excited about becoming a teacher. Sadly I have met a few who are just doing it because other options didn't work out! It is a most rewarding vocation and if you keep in tune with who your students are, where they are at, and how they best learn - particularly as this changes over the decades - you will never want to leave :) Written by someone who started 30 years ago....

  9. Ms. Dorothy,

    My name is Rachael Locklin, and I will be visiting your site for the next few weeks as an assignment from Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I will be summarizing my comments on my blog, which can be found at http://locklinrachaeledm310.blogspot.com.

    In reference to your post, I, too, am amazed by the parents and teachers I come in contact with on social networking sites. I think that having them add an RSS Feed onto their pages is a great idea. If they have time to blog and post comments to their friends, they should have time to comment on their child's post, especially for an educational purpose.

  10. Awesome post Dorothy. Absolutely fantastic to hear that so many parents turned up for an evening of learning at School. What proof that you are creating a community of learners! I look forward to the day when many more New Zealand schools are encouraging this incredible learning experience for children and their whanau. When I was working at Manaia Kindergarten we found even our 3 and 4 years olds were wanting to share their learning via the blog when they realised their families/friends were able to access our blog - it provided an authentic audience and became so meaningful for them. The pride on their faces when they received comments was just priceless. Imagine the day when children start with eportfolio's at Early Childhood and these are carried through their whole educational journey:-)
    Keep up the amazing work! You are an inspiration.
    Tania Coutts

  11. Hi Dorothy, great example of community engagement and many good ideas to think about. I am in the process of establishing our school website (which will be interactive) and engaging the community with how to comment and share in the on-line world. Your Facebook example is a good one, so would Trade Me - two areas where the community would be familiar with. Thanks Dorothy for your leading practice.

  12. @Regan You are right about Trade Me- another good example of an online environment our parents go out of their way to access. I would expect a good proportion of our parent communities are right into it :)
    @Tania Thanks for your feedback. The younger the children are, the more parents seem to get involved with the learning institution and your ex-centre (Manaia)are leaders in this - we acknowledge we have learned from what you are doing and have implemented some of your ideas.

  13. Sincerely, I have to agree with the student who stated that they love to write since they have an audience. I also love the fact that the parents are so involved, and they have a desire to connect with the children. Children are creative for them to be able to distribute their work to everybody is something that will help them cultivate understanding. I am very proud to read your blog. I think it’s awesome what you are doing with your students. Thanks goes to you and your students for creating this blog for the world to see what innovating students you have produced. Keep it up the good work.